Main Menu

Birtherism as MMORPG

I’ve tried different models to understand birtherism: brain physiology, conspiracy theories, psychology, but there are some characteristics that evade those categories, characteristics  more like a massively multiplayer role-playing game (MMORPG).

An MMORPG is an online game presenting a fantasy world in which characters manipulated by human players immerse themselves in a scenario.

The game engine

In online games, there is software that presents the virtual world to players, with location imagery, character interaction, and rules about what happens when the player takes some action. In Birtherism, the game engine is an ad hoc implementation based on the World Wide Web. Because the Web was not designed as a game engine, it is somewhat limited in the kinds of activities players can engage in. There is no rich graphic field of play—it’s a bit more like an older genre, the text adventure. While “chat” is a minor part of modern MMORPGs, it is the central activity of birtherism, and verbal imagery replaces, for the most part, graphics.

Roles

In an MMORPG, characters are of some type: elves, thieves, priests, etc., each with the ability to learn skills. Birthers attempt to learn skills: research, reading between the lines, forensic document examination, legal knowledge, image processing, detection, aggressive speech and propaganda.

Of course each player has an avatar, a game image of the virtual player and a character name, often imaginative and sometimes copied from some fictional character, such as Falcon, Mountain Goat, Joe Mannix, butterdezillion, Hermitian, etc. Like MMORPG players, birthers often select images, or “avatars” to represent themselves online.

The quest

In each MMORPG, there is some goal to achieve, typically defeating something, reaching some place, obtaining objects and wealth, and gaining power and experience. Birtherism modeled as MMORPG has a clearly defined quest, to get President Obama out of office. To accomplish this, birthers seek power objects that they call “evidence” or proof that President Obama is not eligible to be president. Some birther seek for obscure quotations (real or otherwise) that talk about the importance of blood over place of birth. They collect video clips where people say things that can be interpreted to say Obama wasn’t born in the US. Sometimes they fabricate evidence.

Part of the goal in an MMORPG is to gain experience and experience lets a character do things more easily and to defeat more powerful enemies. This part of the game is the most ineffective for birthers, because they lose every skirmish, and don’t gain any experience points.

In the end, most MMORPG’s have a “boss,” a highly powerful character residing at the end of the game, that has to be defeated. President Obama is that character for birthers.

Hacking and slashing

Typically, MMORPG involves violence, and players do extreme things that they would not do in real life, like killing other characters. We’re seeing an upsurge in verbal violence at Birther Report recently. Birthers talk about taking over the country, holding executions, and torturing opponents.

Spilling over into the real world

MMORPG players generally realize that they are playing a game, while birthers generally do not. In an MMPRPG there are non-player characters (NPCs), characters in the game run by the game engine rather than players. In games, they are merchants or providers of information. In birtherism, they are Internet providers, government agencies, judges and media.

One of the things that prompted me to explore the MMORPG model for birthers (and other right-wing extremists on the Internet) was the massively offline failure of Operation American Spring (OAS). In the game world, 10 million people were supposed to descend on Washington DC and shut down the government until their quest was achieved. Online, there was much activity surrounding OAS, but in the real world, hardly anyone showed up. Of course, in a game, no one expects someone to show up at a location in the real world. In fact, for most birthers, all of their birther activity is wholly online.

The distinction between real world and game becomes blurred when someone in a position of authority, like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, does real-world activities towards game objectives. One might even define a major goal of birtherism as breaking outside the game into the real world, making fantasy into reality.

In the game, a player might reasonably expect to achieve a goal that was physically impossible, so long as it is within the parameters of the game engine’s rules. By game logic, birthers should be able to win battles, such as court cases—even though those cases are nonsense in real court. It seems that this difference between MMORPG rules and real world rules causes come confusion and some irritation.

The anti-birthers

In some sense, the opponents of birthers might be said to be playing the MMORPG. Having just come back from the 2014 Philadelphia Fogbow meetup, I get the impression that anti-birthers are more aware of the “fun” aspect of the online activity than birthers. We also don screen names (e.g. “Dr. Conspiracy”) and select avatars. We also gain experience and skills. The Philadelphia meetup was like a convention of game fans. (Maybe we should hold a “birthercon.”)

Conclusion

In my view, both the birthers and their opponents have not changed the real world very much. Obviously Barack Obama won two elections despite the birthers, and probably not because of the help of anti-birthers. Elections are real-world activities and political candidates are far more skilled at their own game than amateurs like us.

Print Friendly

,

27 Responses to Birtherism as MMORPG

  1. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG May 20, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Your analogy works on so many levels!
    The “Basement dwelling man child” is prevalent in both things as well. ;)

  2. avatar
    bovril May 20, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    “One might even define a major goal of birtherism as breaking outside the game into the real world, making fantasy into reality.”

    Shades of TRON anyone….. 8-)

  3. avatar
    HistorianDude May 20, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    Could not agree more. From “20 Shades of Vogt” page 2:

    I refer to Birthistan as an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) because it behaves in a manner strikingly similar to games such as
    World of Warcraft. In these games, ordinary people from widely different geographies and circumstances can share through the internet a virtual reality in which each gets to take imaginary roles of great importance and jointly accomplish spectacular achievements, hoping to eventually be rewarded with
    glory, social status and “loot.”

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/194384601/20-Shades-of-Vogt

  4. avatar
    JPotter May 20, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Mazes & Monsters (TV, 1982)

    Bound together by a desire to play “Mazes and Monsters,” Robbie and his four college classmates decide to move the board game into the local legendary cavern. Robbie starts having visions for real, and the line between reality and fantasy fuse into a harrowing adventure. (summary from IMDb link)

    Highly recommended if you’ve never seen it. The supposed dangers of fantasy worlds for borderline personalities … Tom Hanks loses his own identity, apparently lives out the rest of his days roaming his parents’ pond, believing he is a cleric.

    Very hoky. Driven by the D&D scare of the late 70s early 80s. But humorously applicable.

  5. avatar
    Bonsall Obot May 20, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    JPotter:
    Mazes & Monsters (TV, 1982)

    Highly recommended if you’ve never seen it. The supposed dangers of fantasy worlds for borderline personalities … Tom Hanks loses his own identity, apparently lives out the rest of his days roaming his parents’ pond, believing he is a cleric.

    Very hoky. Driven by the D&D scare of the late 70s early 80s. But humorously applicable.

    It’s craptacular. I love it with all my heart.

  6. avatar
    J.D. Sue May 20, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Brilliant. The perfect definition of birtherism: “an online game presenting a fantasy world in which characters manipulated by human players immerse themselves in a scenario.”

  7. avatar
    OllieOxenFree May 20, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    If I may add… in many of these MMORPG’s people gear up to resist specific types of attacks. Magic, Poison, Disease, various Elements (fire, cold, earth)… etc.

    In the case of birthers, they have maxed out their own resistance to Common Sense, Logic, and Reason.

  8. avatar
    JPotter May 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    So…OAS as a LARP exercise?

  9. avatar
    JPotter May 20, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Bonsall Obot: It’s craptacular. I love it with all my heart.

    Dang hard to find on DVD back in the day.

  10. avatar
    AnyDayNow May 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    Doc,
    I didn’t know if you have seen this comment yet today, but it looks like the loon who calls himself “ScottKB1978″ has officially crossed the line from idiot to dangerous idiot because it seems like he is trying to encourage his deranged flock to track you down and confront you in person. It’s at the end of one of his long “I treat BR like it is my twitter account” rambling comments to the article titled “Update: Fmr. Breitbart News Investigative Journalist Investigating Obama Background”, but here is the relevant section:

    “Finally, last week one of the regulars here emailed a link to Madame Adult Diaper’s website (which I have heretofore refused to visit) that went to a statement I made back when I used my SKB1978 ID (pre-InDe).

    Now, I don’t care for those who knowingly support the undeniable failure and abject ineptitude of the Worst “President” in US history — aka, Barry “Barack” Hussein Dunham Davis Subud Soetoro Soebarkah Abdul Muhammad Soebarkah “Obama” (self-assumed name in quotes). And though I don’t take online shit personally, I don’t like some smug sub-literate elderly shitbag using anything of mine.

    After all, these are the very same America-hating communists who agree that this nation NEEDS to be “fundamentally transformed”.

    So I’ve been thinking…

    It’s one thing to confront these cowardly parrots on the internet – something you (and a few others) have mastered. There are also legal and appropriate ways to confront them face to face. I would NEVER encourage or threaten violence, but this is still somewhat a free country, and if you go out in public — hey, you never know who you and your walker are going to run into.

    You see where I’m going with this?” (End of quote)

    Now i don’t really believe that any of these ‘all bark and no bite” losers will actually do anything about it and it is probably just another in the long and pathetic list of empty threats from impotent malcontents, but i just thought that it was worth bringing to your attention.

  11. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy May 20, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    I’ve seen worse. In response to another comment this morning, I left this at BR:

    I am really concerned about some of the language here. One commenter threatened to burn my house (comment subsequently deleted), and others talking about lynching and executions. There are references to torture, homosexual rape, hanging and firing squads.

    This is not healthy. This is not American.

    In America we have the rule of law, and we have the presumption of innocence. Just because a crank names me as a “person of interest” in a dismissed court proceeding because I wrote an article to educate the public about birth certificates, does not qualify me for any criminal charge, much less summary execution at the hand of a mob of crazed birthers or the Obama administration.

    I think the commenting here is completely out of hand, and the management of this web site, should take some responsibility for cleaning up the craziness that is festering here, because there just might be some be someone who doesn’t realize that this is a game, and does something in the real world we would all regret.

    http://www.birtherreport.com/2014/05/evade-supreme-court-denies-two-more.html#IDComment832894820

    I think they are all toothless bullies, but one never knows.

    AnyDayNow: Now i don’t really believe that any of these ‘all bark and no bite” losers will actually do anything about it and it is probably just another in the long and pathetic list of empty threats from impotent malcontents, but i just thought that it was worth bringing to your attention.

  12. avatar
    Arthur May 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    JPotter: So…OAS as a LARP exercise?

    Oh Lordy, that made me laugh. LARPers–where failed Renaissance Faire reenactors go to make fun of people weirder than they are.

  13. avatar
    Arthur May 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    The whole concept of MMORPG is beyond the grasp of many birthers, including this poster from BR:

    “I don’t know crap about the internet, but why don’t people start that hashtag thing on twitter,to get the message out about obozo being a fraud.”

    Poor fellow.

  14. avatar
    Patrick McKinnion May 20, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    The big difference though is:

    When I log into my WoW account, I know I’m playing a game, and that, ultimately, the lv90 Pandarian Hunter I’m running or the lv60 Gnome Death Knight have absolutely NO relation to the real world, and will have no effect other than my monthly tithe to Blizzard for playing time.

    When Falcon, Rambo Ike, Polland/Polarik, Yoel, TechDude, Citizen Wells, Gabe Zolna, Dr. Kate, or most of the other birtherstani log into BR, the Pest and eFail, or other birther cesspool, they believe they ARE in the real world, that their echo chamber is reality. Which is why they fail so well when they try and apply their game to reality – and it backfires on them.

    To cite the infamous Jack T. Chick tract “Dark Dungeons”, they can’t stop being Elfstar long enough to actually be Debbie.

  15. avatar
    The European May 20, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    lupin, sorry, but I had to bring this over here. Too funny. Exactly like the Baptist mother whose son announced to learn Greek to read the words of Jesus:” If English was good enough for Jesus it should be good enough for you too, also !”

    ——————————————————————————————————–
    Lupin · 9 hours ago
    As a French lawyer I don’t care a whit if Obama is legitimate or not. That’s not my problem. I can tell you however that Mr. Apuzzo is totally wrong in his interpretation of Vattel.

    Vattel was the basis for the Napoleonic Code system and has been analyzed to death in 200+ years of legal scholarship, and what Mr. Apuzzo has written/argued on the topic is simply false. The circumstances of his birth would have been enough for Obama would have been considered a “naturel” as far as Vattel was concerned. (We have a rather similar case in the person of famous writer Emile Zola.)

    Also you might be interested to know that James Madison was offered, and enthusiastically accepted, French citizenship before he ran for President. That made him the first (and possibly the only) dual citizen President (American/French) in our common histories.
    Report
    Reply
    6 replies · active 21 minutes ago
    +5
    George’s avatar

    George · 7 hours ago
    Vattel’s “Law of Nations” 1758 is a classic and was used by our founders to frame our Constitution. Go back to France.
    Report
    Reply
    +6
    ‘s avatar – Go to profile

    Cassandra Hocutt · 6 hours ago
    If you didn’t care a whit, you wouldn’t be posting about it. I do not miss the significance of the fact that you claim to be from socialist France. So perhaps you should go bake some croissants and quit butting into affairs that are none of your business and that you don’t care about anyway.
    Report
    Reply
    +4
    TigerAU’s avatar – Go to profile

    TigerAU 79p · 3 hours ago
    A French lawyer, I’m quite sure. And my ass is a farris wheel. Stay out of topics that you know nothing about. Go drink some wine and stop stinking up this blog, idiot.
    Report
    Reply
    +1
    Barack_D_Fraud’s avatar – Go to profile

    Barack_D_Fraud 86p · 46 minutes ago
    that’s faggy posting, pretending to be a french lawyer. lol
    Report
    Reply
    +4
    RacerJim’s avatar

    RacerJim · 3 hours ago
    As an American Vietnam Veteran and son of an American WWII Veteran who risked his life to FREE France from Nazism I could give a shit less about your opinion. I could also give a shit less about the Napoleonic Code system adopted by France because it was never adopted in America. That’s your problem, not ours.

    I can, however, tell you that Mr. Mario Apuzzo Esquire is absolutely correct in his opinion of Vattel for the simple reason that he bases his opinion on Vattel’s actual words rather than his interpretation of same, to wit: “The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.”

    Also, you might be interested in knowing that while James Madison may well have been the first dual-citizen elected POTUS the “natural born Citizen” clause did not apply to him because he was born prior to the enactment of our Constitution.

    Lastly, you also might be interested in knowing that Chester A. Arthur was the first POTUS who was born a dual-citizen AND subject to the “natural born Citizen” clause — and he not only LIED about being born a dual-citizen but burned his birth records as well.
    Report
    Reply
    +1
    Barack_D_Fraud’s avatar – Go to profile

    Barack_D_Fraud 86p · 44 minutes ago
    exactly, why did washington, adams and the rest have vattel on the shelf. they could have adopted english common law and started an american monarchy, but they were above that.

  16. avatar
    Crustacean May 20, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    The European: If English was good enough for Jesus it should be good enough for you too!”

    That boy should’ve told his mom, “Greek wasn’t good enough for Jesus. I need Aramaic lessons!”

  17. avatar
    Slartibartfast May 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    um… wasn’t Vattel a monarchist?

    Does “Barack_D_Fraud” lose a level for that?

    Great article Doc! I’ve been looking forward to it since you told us about it in Philly!

    The European: Barack_D_Fraud 86p · 44 minutes ago
    exactly, why did washington, adams and the rest have vattel on the shelf. they could have adopted english common law and started an american monarchy, but they were above that.

  18. avatar
    J.D. Sue May 20, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    Slartibartfast: um… wasn’t Vattel a monarchist?

    Does “Barack_D_Fraud” lose a level for that?

    Great article Doc! I’ve been looking forward to it since you told us about it in Philly!

    The European: Barack_D_Fraud 86p · 44 minutes ago
    exactly, why did washington, adams and the rest have vattel on the shelf. they could have adopted english common law and started an american monarchy, but they were above that.

    ——————–
    Shouldn’t B_D_Fraud have to name all the books on Wahington’s and Adam’s bookshelves?

  19. avatar
    CCB May 20, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    For some interesting research on why we continue to believe things even after we are told they are not true, see http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/mariakonnikova . There are also some suggestions how we might be persuaded to change our minds.

  20. avatar
    Lupin May 21, 2014 at 3:04 am #

    It is painfully obvious that I am wasting my time on BR. One of them even seems to think I’m “Foggy” (Fogbow?) whoever that is.

  21. avatar
    bovril May 21, 2014 at 3:51 am #

    Lupin,

    Unfortunatley the pond slime dwelling denizens of Birfoon Report are utterly convinced that there are in fact only a tiny handful of Obots out there (along with simultaneously believing that DARPA, the NSA and the CIA are also heavily invested with Obots).

    As such they believe that all Obot’ish posts are from one of 3 or 4 Obots only….except when they don’t.

    In addition the chief scary monster under the bed is the ID Foggy from the Fogbow site who punks and lambasts them mercilessly. As such amyone who post in counter to Birfoon thought MUST be in fact Foggy.

    It doesn’t make any sense but hey, they’re Birfoons.

  22. avatar
    Lupin May 21, 2014 at 4:31 am #

    The European: lupin, sorry, but I had to bring this over here. Too funny. Exactly like the Baptist mother whose son announced to learn Greek to read the words of Jesus:” If English was good enough for Jesus it should be good enough for you too, also !

    They truly are a bunch of dimwits.

  23. avatar
    Lupin May 21, 2014 at 4:34 am #

    bovril: In addition the chief scary monster under the bed is the ID Foggy from the Fogbow site who punks and lambasts them mercilessly. As such amyone who post in counter to Birfoon thought MUST be in fact Foggy.

    It doesn’t make any sense but hey, they’re Birfoons.

    Thanks for the explanation. What constantly amazes me is the naked anger they express at everyone else; I’m not even “pro-Obama”, I’m merely stating that Vattel didn’t mean what some claim he meant, but they react like the body snatchee at the end of the 1978 remake.

  24. avatar
    Craig HS May 21, 2014 at 4:40 am #

    Damn, those OBots rack up the frequent flyer miles. You know how far it is between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia? And then we have to get over to Asia before lunch, Europe by afternoon tea-time, and finally back to the good ol’ US of A in time to pick up our Soros cheque, grab a few hours sleep, then start our traitorous global post’n’dash all over again the next day!

  25. avatar
    bovril May 21, 2014 at 7:09 am #

    You better believe the air miles. just got my gold card from Emirates…sweet.

    Last trip down to Melbourne I got an upgrade to 1st Class all the way down from London and had not one but two showers at 40,000 feet…..Yep, Emirates has two shower/spa’s on the plane in First.

    As for the 1st Class Lounge in Dubai…… 8-)

  26. avatar
    Northland10 May 21, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    Lupin: They truly are a bunch of dimwits.

    Doc may need to create a new link category for them, as they go beyond Ugly. These are people who can believe that Obama is born, in Kenya and Indonesia, to three fathers (none of which is Obama Sr.), 2 or 3 mothers (the Stanley Armour Dunham father story needs a black mother), in 1961 and 1958, and Obama is actually Arab (ignore none of the parents they list are Arab).

    All of this is because, Benghazi.

  27. avatar
    The Magic M (not logged in) May 21, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    bovril: the pond slime dwelling denizens of Birfoon Report are utterly convinced that there are in fact only a tiny handful of Obots out there

    My favourite BR reaction to the abysmal OAS turnout was “but… but… the Obot meeting had less attendees, so there, we win!”. ;)

333333 44444
5555555
6666666